The EgyptAir plane that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea with 66 people on board went into a sudden spin and plunged 22,000ft before vanishing off the radar, a Greek minister revealed today.
Flight MS804 came down near the Greek island of Karpathos ten miles into Egyptian airspace at around 00.30am GMT without making a distress call.
It departed Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris at 9.09pm GMT last night and was scheduled to arrive at Cairo Airport at 1.15am GMT.
Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the Airbus A320 made ‘sudden swerves’ mid-air, lurching 90 degrees to the left then 360 degrees to the right as it fell out of the sky.
He said the plane dropped from 37,000 feet to 15,000ft before the signal was lost at around 10,000 feet.
The revelation came after a former air accident chief said all the evidence was pointed to the plane being targeted in a terrorist attack.
The 56 passengers on board included one Briton, 30 Egyptians, 15 French, one Belgian, one Iraqi, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi Arabian, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Algerian and one Canadian. There were 10 crew members including three security guards.
Jean-Paul Troadec, the former chief of the BEA national investigation unit, said the lack of a live emergency alert suggested a ‘brutal event’.
He told Europe 1 radio station in Paris: ‘A technical problem, a fire or a failed motor do not cause an instant accident and the team has time to react.
‘The team said nothing, they did not react, so it was very probably a brutal event and we can certainly think about an attack.’
His comments came after a merchant ship captain reported seeing a ‘flame in the sky’ over the Mediterranean.
ISIS has been waging a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security forces and last October claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner flying home holidaymakers from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh which killed all 224 people on board.
The flight was the aircraft’s fifth of the day, having also flown to the Eritrean capital of Asmara, the Tunisian capital Tunis and Brussels in Belgium.
French President Francois Hollande said nothing had been ruled out about the cause of the crash.
Speaking at the Elysee Palace in Paris, he said: ‘When we have the truth we need to draw all the conclusions. At this stage, we must give priority to solidarity toward the families (of the victims).’
The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the accident.
The prosecutor said in a statement that its collective accident department opened the investigation with the national gendarme service, adding that ‘no hypothesis is favoured or ruled out at this stage’.
In the minutes and hours after the crash, devastated relatives gathered at Charles De Gaulle and Cairo Airports, weeping and comforting each other as waited for news of their loved ones.
The British Foreign Office said it was in contact with the family of a British national who was feared dead.
The Airbus A320 left the French capital’s Charles De Gaulle Airport at 9.09pm GMT last night before coming down off the Greek island of Karpathos ten miles into Egyptian airspace at around 00.30am GMT.
EgyptAir first reported on the disappearance of the flight, tweeting: ‘An informed source at EGYPTAIR stated that Flight no MS804, which departed Paris at 9.09pm (GMT) heading to Cairo, has disappeared from radar.’
Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority CAA said the flight entered the Greek air traffic control area (FIR) at 2.24am Greek time (11.24am GMT).
It was identified and approved on its flight course before passing into the next section of air traffic control where it was approved by the controller for the exit point of the Greek FIR.
The CAA said the last communication traffic controllers had with the EgyptAir pilot at around 00.05am found him in good spirits.
It said the pilot ‘was in a good mood and gave thanks in Greek when authorised to exit the Athens flight information region’.
Air traffic controllers tried to contact the pilot again at 00.27am for the handover of the plane to Cairo’s area of responsibility, but ‘despite repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond’.
Air traffic control called on the emergency frequency and again there was no response.
At 00.29am GMT, the aircraft was over the exit point of the Athens FIR, and at 00.29.40am GMT, it vanished from radar.
The Greek authority said the military was asked for help in case the plane could be located on a military radar, but there was no sign of it.
Search and rescue operations then kicked in 00.45am.
Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al-Ahram quoted an airport official as saying the pilot did not send a distress call and that last contact with the plane was made 10 minutes before it disappeared from radar.
EgyptAir said the plane sent an emergency signal, possibly from an emergency beacon attached to the plane, at 2.26am GMT two hours after it vanished.
In water crashes, an underwater beacon attached to the aircraft’s flight recorders starts to emit a signal or ping which helps search and rescue teams to locate the crash and find the black boxes.
A French security source told the Telegraph: ‘We cannot rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack.’
Egyptian military aircraft and navy ships were taking part in a search operation off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to locate the debris of the plane, which was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, and 10 crew members.
This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail.